So You Want To Be A First Year Vet Student (added for clarity online)
By the time you read this, block I of vet school (technically it’s a 12 credit class, and the first class of first-year) will be over. Instead of boring you with another exams-are-stressful column, I’m just going to recap some highlights of the past few months, kind of like what you find in those “so you want to be a [profession]” books for little kids.
1. Broken leg. While I wouldn’t advise breaking your leg the week before vet school starts, it really wasn’t as bad as it could have been. There aren’t any hills to walk up and down because you (or your roommate, when you happen to have broken your right leg … ) drive to school and then all of the buildings are connected and you stay inside all day (this would probably be a lot more depressing anywhere that wasn’t Ithaca). It took a little longer to get from one side of the building to the other on crutches, but hey, at least it was a great ab and upper body workout. The only thing I wasn’t able to participate in completely was some of the large animal labs that we did, but I know how to handle horses and I was able to play with cows after my leg healed anyway. Honestly the broken leg was more of a social loss than an academic one, because it was hard to move around town.
2. Fostering kittens. My roommate fostered four kittens for a couple of weeks. Kittens are a little bit like humans in their terrible twos. When my family first got my mom’s kitten, sometimes the only thing that got us through the days was knowing that he would grow out of his adorable brattiness. The original idea was that my roommate would section off part of her room for the kittens with large pieces of cardboard, but within two days they figured out how to jump over the cardboard. And then they ran/jumped/pooped around the room/under the bed, and we spent an hour chasing flying kittens. So we just gave the kittens the run of the bathroom, which worked relatively well for everyone except our shower curtain, which was ripped to shreds by the end of it.
3. My cat. My cat is old (16) and just came back from living with my parents in Southeast Asia (it’s a long story) where she developed a couple of problems that the veterinary care there wasn’t completely equipped to handle. I had to bring her in to the hospital here a couple of times for them to figure out how to manage her problems, and all seemed to be well until one morning when I woke up and found the back door wide open. Apparently we hadn’t locked our back door one night and the wind had blown it open. So I frantically woke up my roommate and enlisted the help of our housemate and ran around the neighborhood in my PJs for at least an hour, blatantly trespassing everywhere. Finally, I ran into a neighbor walking her dog who told me she had seen a cat in her yard, and miraculously the cat was mine. She was at least two blocks away, which is much further than I would have looked on my own so I still can’t really believe how lucky that was.
Then, the week before the midterm she had a flare up with her medical conditions again. I spent a lot of time in the hospital with her, and got to see a lot fascinating things — her echocardiogram probably tops the list. As stressful as it was to have her sick, it was refreshing to get to see veterinary medicine at work and be reminded of the end-goal of block I. Also, I should probably mention that I’m a little insane when it comes to my own animals and probably was a little over the top with my questions and concerns. (Once when my horse had allergies, I frantically inquired if it was still okay for him to eat grass. In my defense, I was younger and he was allergic to something in his field). I think all animal owners/parents are, I would share stories of other people that I know but I don’t think I’m allowed to embarrass them publicly.
4. Class. Moving on to academics. The 6:30 a.m. wake-ups and 11 p.m. bedtimes took a little getting used to (I’m going to blame my leg as the reason I was so tired a lot of the time, and not my absolute inability to be a morning person), but besides that the block I schedule is a lot of fun. No two days are ever the same, and I’m impressed at how they’ve managed to create a schedule where we do something different every day and integrate it with the rest of the school in terms of rooms, professors, etc. In general, block I is divided into tutor group, radiology, histology, dissection lab and other lectures. It’s a lot more class than I’ve ever had before, which is a little strange because it’s only 12 credits and I’ve taken up to 23 as an undergrad.
5. More class. Block VIIa is a class I’ve never really talked about before. It’s a 1.5 credit class that we take along with block I, and is where we get to play with the animals and apply what we’re learning. We’ve learned how to do basic physical exams on horses, cows, cats and dogs, and have been able to handle sheep, alpacas, pigs and rabbits as well. It gives us the ability to familiarize ourselves with animals we might not have had much exposure to yet, and is always a fun way to end the day.
As I was lying in bed the other night thinking about how much we had learned (sometimes I even dream about it), I felt like we had been taught everything possible about animal anatomy. But this is only the first part of the first year, which means that there are at least 10 times more things to learn, which is scary and awesome all at the same time.
So these are my highlights from the first block of vet school classes. I hope that it can help you see where I’m coming from when I write about life in vet school and current issues in the profession that I’ve been exposed to.
Nikhita Parandekar ’11 is a first-year veterinary student in the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine. She may be reached at email@example.com. Hoof in Mouth appears alternate Fridays this semester.